Before revealing the answer to these million dollar questions, in this article I will try to clean up some misconceptions and cover some basis on the role of an Agile coach (Scrum Master). As explained by Lyssa Adkins (co-author of the Agile coaching competency framework) there is no hierarchy or substantial difference between Agile coach and Scrum Master. Not all Scrum Masters are aware of their potential and responsibility to act as coaches, not all Agile coaches have deep knowledge on Scrum dynamics. At the end of the day, any Scrum Master is potentially an Agile coach and vice versa.
The Agile coach (aka Scrum Master) is a servant leader, a professional coach with strong ethics that serves the teams before any other agenda.
The Agile coach is not an Agile sales representative. They don’t need to sell or advocate agility at any cost to make profit. Agile doesn’t need companies. Companies need to be Agile to be able to compete and survive in a constantly changing world. Let me repeat this concept.
Agile is not a cult or a religion with dogmatic rules to follow. Coaches and facilitators aren’t adepts that faithfully believe in a methodology and try to make more adepts and supporters for the cause.
Often Agile coaches do not even engage with companies or realities where Agile wouldn’t work due to lack of support, willingness or other conditions.
Many companies prefer to fake being Agile, hire a coach and then impose the old “Command and Control” style.
We have no issue leaving these companies to their destiny and embrace more meaningful challenges. Other times we stay or accept the challenge because some of these organisations are the places where Agile coaches are needed most.
Millions of developers every day wish to have a coach in their organisation that can help them grow, build their strength, and partner with them to achieve their goals. Many want to experience true agility, continuous improvement, short delivery cycle, successful deployment and a better way of building software.
The Agile coach does not impose organizations to be Agile. The Scrum Master doesn’t enforce a particular Agile framework following their own agenda or title. The Agile coach is not a project manager and their focus is not on project output.
We coach people, teams, organizations to relentlessly improve their performance working on their potential. That’s why it is called servant leader, because it provides a precise service that is independent from minute due dates, specific projects, and financial quarterly details.
The Agile coach leads the organization in their transformation journey, promoting a customized, specific roadmap so that the organization and all its people can benefit from acquiring an Agile (growth) mindset. According to time, evolution stage, history, future needs… the coach helps teams recognise differences, benefits, pros and cons of different ways of working. The Agile coach supports everyone to understand which of their interactions are helpful and which aren’t and supports changing these interactions to maximize the value created by all teams. The Agile coach will guide teams to make their own agreements, evolve their practices, navigate their conflicts, improve day by day, grow, become interdependent, autonomous, choose the best framework that works for them, and find their own purpose.
There is nothing pre-scripted to pitch. Nothing to sell. No blueprint to apply or impose. The Agile manifesto is made of values and principles, not rules.
Some say that an Agile coach should not write about agility, Agile or which Agile frameworks can work better because according to them, coaches would have a conflict of interest promoting Agile or a particular framework. That’s like saying that virologists should not have a say about viruses, vaccines and solutions to a pandemic because they have an obvious interest in it.
Usually these Agile contesters are people who didn’t yet develop enough awareness around the Agile coach role, responsibilities, ethics.
Their limited (bad or prejudicial) experience with the Agile world makes them decide once and forever that Agile doesn’t work and we shouldn’t even talk about it.
Did they understand agility? Did they proactively support it? Did they succeed or fail implementing their idea of Agile? Was it a winning or a learning experience?
If you tried any Agile framework and it didn’t work for you in the past, it doesn’t mean it never works for others.
Others have different or simply better experiences every day.
We are uncovering better ways of developing software (or manufacturing cars or providing services…) by doing it and helping others do it.
Keeping a growth mindset can help everyone be ready to embrace the change and have a reconciling or positive relation with Agile.
At this point the original dilemma is not “Does Agile work?” or “Does Agile work for you?” but “What are you willing to change to work successfully on your agility?” That could be a good starting point for a conversation with your personal/business coach.
- Virologists are the most entitled professionals to talk/write about viruses, vaccines and solutions to a pandemic.
- Agilists are the most qualified professionals to talk/write about ways of working to enable continuous improvement, performance acceleration, innovation, excellence, success.
- The Agile coach is the most entitled professional to lead organizations in their transformation journey, guiding teams evolving their practices, finding their motivations, performing at their best every day and accelerating their way to success.
- The journey takes time. It is different and it is tailored for each organization and team.
- There is nothing prescripted to pitch. Nothing to sell. No conflict of interest. No hidden agenda. Ethics, values, principles and agreements are transparent, empirical, explicit.
- Does Agile work (for you)? It depends. The real question is “What are you willing to change to work successfully on your agility?“
- Start a conversation with an Agile coach which is the most knowledgeable (and dedicated) professional to guide you across the journey that will enable you to answer this question by yourself.
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I write about organizational patterns, transformational leadership, healthy businesses, high-performing teams, future of workplace, culture, mindset, biases and more. My focus is in leading, training, and coaching teams and organizations in improving their agile adoption. Articles are the result of my ideas, studies, reading, research, courses, and learning. The postings on this site and any social profile are my own and do not represent or relate to the postings, strategies, opinions, events, situations of any current or former employer.
This article has been published for the first time on danieledavi.com by the author Daniele Davi’.
© Daniele Davi’, 2021. No part of this article or the materials available through this website may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published, broadcast or reduced to any electronic medium, human or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent of the author, Daniele Davi’.